Jobs @ MG
Is SIMI on the right track?
By Kaleem Kawaja
|Washington: In the last few weeks the
situation of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) has become
increasingly complex and a cause for concern. Almost every day the
national press carries statements from SIMI office-bearers, laced with
sensational & militant rhetoric. This rhetoric often appears to mirror
the language used by the extremist Hindu groups, e.g. Bajrang Dal, Shiv
Sena, RSS, BJP. While such statements catch the readers’ eyes and draw
attention to SIMI, they also unknowingly help the enemies of Indian
Muslims who are trying hard for decades to stereotype the entire community
as extremist, militant and harmful to the nation.
While it is true that SIMI is not indulging in any illegal activities, is
definitely not involved with any terrorist activities and has no
connection with any foreign elements, its over-heated and sometimes
inflammatory rhetoric makes even many secular Hindus uncomfortable. And it
is a boon to the detractors of Muslims who want more and more secular
Hindus to cross over to the side of BJP & RSS.
With elections in several states scheduled for early 2002, several
political parties have started exploiting the SIMI rhetoric to once again
play vote-bank politics with the entire Muslim community. These parties
who have never done anything for the Muslims other than lip service, are
now telling the Muslim community that by opposing the calls to ban SIMI,
they are doing great service to the community. As in the past, a non-issue
like SIMI is being made into a crucial issue of the community. It reminds
me of how in the 1980s the Shah Bano affair, a total non-issue for the
community, was blown out of proportion, made into an issue for the
survival of the community, and exploited shamelessly by various political
parties to steal the votes of the community, for which these parties had
never done anything.
Today the real issues of the Muslim community are injustice, lack of
security, unfair maligning, poverty, poor standard of education,
unemployment, and marginalization from the social, political and national
mainstream of the nation. A very large number of Muslim youth lack proper
education, are unemployed, have little hope for their future and despair
is the major theme of their daily lives. That causes quite a few of them
to fall into undesirable activities that lead to further deterioration and
impoverishment of the community.
When SIMI says that its objective is to improve the situation of the
Muslim youth and build their characters, it strikes a chord with many
sensible elements in the community. But unfortunately other than rebutting
the fanatic Hindu elements, with likewise sensational rhetoric, SIMI has
done hardly anything to fulfill their own oft-stated objective. They only
need to look at the Students Islamic Trust (SIT), another organization for
the Muslim youth for inspiration. SIT is performing yeoman service to the
Muslim youth by spreading education, assisting Muslim educational
institutions and Muslim students. In the last few years alone thousands of
Muslim youth have become technical professionals who are earning decent
salaries, thereby helping their families climb out of poverty and despair.
There are quite a few Muslim politicians, community leaders, many of them
in various political parties, and Muslim NGOs, who are taking up the civic
and political causes of the Muslim community, in various national forums,
drawing the attention of the power structure towards these issues.
Moreover, Muslim students in their early twenties, whom SIMI is focusing
on, are in a period of their lives where wasting time in political
activities will cause serious harm to their educational careers and their
SIMI will do well to stay away from continuous rebuttal and over-heated
rhetoric responding to the inflammatory allegations of the fanatic Hindu
groups like Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, RSS, BJP etc. In many cities across
the nation, the condition of many Muslim educational and social
institutions is very poor and much improvement is needed. Also in many
Muslim localities in these cities, out of despair, Muslim youth are
falling into undesirable activities. For instance, Kanpur, where a few
months ago a SIMI protest rally turned into a nightmare with grievous
police brutalities and severe losses for the local Muslim community. The
condition of at least two Muslim colleges in Kanpur, is very poor indeed.
The buildings are falling apart, the quality of teachers is very poor and
the management committees and school are locked in intense power struggle.
Also, in several Muslim majority localities in Kanpur there is quite a bit
of petty crime and the public sanitation facilities are in awful shape.
Let SIMI focus on these grievous problems of building the Qaum at the
grass roots level. Let SIMI work with good Hindus to restore communal
harmony between Muslims and Hindus in the many cities in the nation. SIMI
should be able to see the trap that the fanatic Hindu elements are once
again laying for the Muslim community, and stay away from falling a prey
Mr Kawaja is
the director of the Association of Indian Muslims of America, Washington,